Publish your excavation in minutes

…provided you blogged the whole thing in the first place.

How, you say?

With Anthologize, the outcome of the one-week-one-tool experiment.

Anthologize is a free, open-source, plugin that transforms WordPress 3.0 into a platform for publishing electronic texts. Grab posts from your WordPress blog, import feeds from external sites, or create new content directly within Anthologize. Then outline, order, and edit your work, crafting it into a single volume for export in several formats, including—in this release—PDF, ePUB, TEI.

How Anthologize came to be is remarkable in itself (see Dan Cohen’s blog) and is a model for what we as digitally-minded archaeology folks could be doing. Which puts me in mind of excavation reports, catalogues, and other materials produced in the day to day work of archaeology.

What if, in the course of doing your fieldwork/archive work/catalogue work/small finds work, you used WordPress as your content management system? There are plugins a-plenty for keeping things private, if that’s a concern. But once the work is complete, run Anthologize and voila: a publication fit for the 21st century.

And, since the constraints of paper publishing no longer apply, David Wilkin’s thoughts on the fuller experience of archaeology could also now find easier expression – in 2007 I wrote the following:

But he asks, ‘what of characters in archaeological writing?’ Wilkinson’s paper is really making a plea for archaeologists to remember that they themselves are characters in the story of the site or landscape that they are studying, and that they should put themselves into it:

“We all sit in portacavins, in offices, in vans, in pubs or round fires, and we tell stories… we have a great time and drink too much and what do we do the next morning? We get up and go to our offices and we rite, ‘In Phase 1 ditch 761 was recut (794) along part of its length.’ Surely, we can do better”.

A similar argument was made in the SAA Archaeological Record last May, by Cornelius Holtorf , in an article called ‘Learning from Las Vegas: Archaeology in the Experience Economy”. Holtorf argued:

“Learning from Las Vegas means learning to embrace and build upon the amazing fact that archaeologists can connect so well with some of the most widespread fantasies, dreams, and desires that people have today.[…] I am suggesting that the greatest value of archaeology in society lies in providing people with what they most desire from archaeology: great stories both about the past and about archaeological research.”

Archaeology – the doing of archaeology! – is a fantastic experience. You learn so much more about the past when you are at the coal-face itself, when you stand in 35 degree C heat, with the dust on your face so thick you almost choke, debating with the site supervisor the meaning of a complicated series of walls, or sitting at the bar afterwards with a cool beer, still debating the situation, laughing, chatting. Reading ‘Three shards of Vernice-Nera ware found in-situ below 342 indicate…’ sucks the fun out of archaeology. It certainly has no romance which puts the practice of archaeology – as published to the public – far down the list of priorities in this modern Experience Economy. The serious face of archaeology we present to the public is so lifeless : how can we expect government and the public to be excited about our work if we ourselves give every indication of not being excited either?

I’m not arguing that we turn every site monograph into a graphic novel (though that’s an interesting idea, and has been done for teaching archaeology). But with the internet being the way it is these days: couldn’t a project website contain blogs and twitters (‘tweets’, actually) from the people working on it? Can’t we make the stories of the excavation at least as important as the story of the site?

Contragulations to the folks who participated in the creation of Anthologize; there’ll be great things ahead for this tool!

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5 thoughts on “Publish your excavation in minutes

  1. Thanks for taking a look at Anthologize! We’re really excited to see so many disciplines being represented in the interest. I think you are the first archaeologist!

    I come to the project from a teaching background, and so really appreciate your thoughts about the doing of the discipline. I know chemists and biologists who are trying to use technology to get at something similar for their labs. It’s not about writing down numbers, it’s about the process, and about interpreting the numbers into a coherent understanding. Sounds similar for the process of an excavation?

    The really wonderful thing in that approach is that it is a natural way to share what being an archaeologist is really all about; why someone would be passionate about it in the first place. Doing the kind of writing you describe and making it into an ePub with Anthologize would be infinitely more compelling than the brochures that university PR departments typically produce.

    Thanks again!

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